Interviews from the Archive – Eduardo Molinari

Date of Interview: Oct 01, 2010
Location: Argentina
Topic: Interview with Eduardo Molinari
Interviewer: Nancy Garín on behalf of LatinArt.com[1]

LatinArt:  When and how was the idea of the Archivo Caminante born?

Eduardo Molinari:  Although the relationship between art and history has always been present in my work, the specific practice that gave rise to Archivo Caminante began in 1999. My art studies are in drawing and painting, and that year I visited the National Archives (Archivo General de la Nación – AGN) in Buenos Aires to look for some photographs of Argentine history that I wanted to paint. I never found the photos I was looking for – on the presidential transfer of power, the moment when they hand over the presidential sash and the ceremonial staff. The experience of visiting the Archives was fascinating, however, and signaled an encounter with a source whose aesthetic qualities, materials and the particular way they’re displayed led to drastic changes in my practice: I have never painted since. Instead, after visiting the AGN all through 1999 and putting together a repertory of images on Argentinean history as a result of my research, photography and walking became part of my art practice. I had to go out and generate my own documents to be able to engage in a non-subordinate dialogue with the official narration of history. I started walking around in the city (and nature) in search of crossroads, places where the past, the present and the future met.

My archive (unnamed until 2001) took shape based on three sources or types of documents: copies of the AGN’s official photographic material, the photographs I take on walks, and lastly what I call junk or garbage documentation: scraps and fragments of print media (magazines, newspapers, graphics in general) and publications (books, posters, postcards, maps, etc.) Those three elements, joined together as a manual collage, have created the Documents of the Walking Archive (Doc/AC).

LatinArt:  What was the first work to stem from the project-process that is the Walking Archive, and what has that approach been like in relation to the collective projects in which you take part?

Eduardo Molinari:  In 2001, after having been chosen by the TRAMA program to conduct work on “art practices and their social context”, I took a walk in the union landscape, the patrimonial territory of unions in Buenos Aires, a geography that was altered by the neoliberalism of the nineties. After that experience, which culminated in a series of graphic prints and the piece Columna Vertebral (Spinal Column), an intervention on the columns of the current School of Engineering of Buenos Aires University (UBA) -the former Eva Perón Foundation- I decided to establish the Walking Archive.

The process behind the relationship between the Walking Archive and the collective processes I take part in has been colored from the outset by the dynamic of the walker: it’s a relationship that’s always in context, always linked to others, always open to new forms of knowledge and practices. That’s why I refer to the Walking Archive as a project in which walking as an esthetic practice and collective and interdisciplinary action are at the core.

The name of the project indicates a breaking away from or differentiation from the hegemonic paradigm of the Argentina of the nineties, embodied in the figure of the artist Guillermo Kuitca (who started a trend by his association with the curatorial practices of the Rojas Cultural Center and the scholarships that bear his name to this day): the paradigm of the wandering, out-of-context and out-of-history artist.

The Walking Archive is not a “nomadic” nor a “wandering” archive. It walks in the sense that it goes from one place to another, one person to another, one generation to another, carrying – like mules- power/memories, burdens that are viewed as valued and even secret, through territories that are difficult to move through, and creating a concept of movement in which it is essential to know when to move and when to stop.

LatinArt:  How does this project-life-work relate to your practice as a teacher? How do you visualize the creation of alternative forms, projects involving new pedagogies, de-education, etc.?

Eduardo Molinari:  The relationship is one of involvement and indissolubility. I view myself as an artist and teacher; they’re two sides of the same coin. I think art -through the possibility it has of materializing our imaginaries- has an enormous potential to bring about social change. When I was in Berlin a few weeks ago, I heard Edgar Arandia, the director of the Museum of Fine Arts of La Paz, talk about the challenges he faced in that institution, which is burdened with a long imperial and imperialistic history, a history of violence, extermination and plundering. He said that under his tenure the challenge was to make the museum a place to “inform, teach and transform”. I like that pedagogical trilogy very much.

In our countries, our region, art education has special characteristics as a result of a neoliberal dismantling process of the nineties. The Menem-Cavallo law on education destroyed free, public art schools: it severed the links between the three levels of teaching (teachers, professors, and post graduates) and created a new institution that hasn’t been able to meet social needs yet. But it’s the only surviving example of free art education in the country.

I therefore think that if we’re going to undertake an analysis from the perspective of “alternatives” or “de-education” we need to be very careful, we need to know the ground we’re treading on. I’m not at all interested in promoting the dismantling of free, public art education. Its privatization through private workshops and universities, the establishment of institutions that are purportedly autonomous or independent (when in fact they depend on funding from foreign countries or private foundations with ties to the fruits of the policy of privatizations) or the proliferation of “clinics” or “workshops” strike me as symptoms of a very perverse system: the need for semiocapitalism to create a use of language (in this case visual) in which recombining signs is more important than producing understanding or meaning.

Semiocapitalism speaks of “emerging artists”, of “alternative” esthetics, of the need to do away with the “old academic institutions”. However, the fact is that few social subjects can move freely through the “new” institutions. For me the clearest examples in Argentina of these cultural policies that perpetuate the simulation and recombining of meaningless signs (as a means for social elites to control people and new social imaginaries) or I could also say with meanings that work for those elites, are:

– The CIA (Centro de Investigaciones Artísticas – Center for Art Research), an acronym that eloquently reflects the discourse logic that is being sought—an “alternative” institution that says it is based on its founders’ concern with art education.
– The Di Tella University, a private, elitist enclave that has a screening process even though one has to pay, which conducts training seminars and currently offers the Kuitca scholarship. The aim in both cases is to “de-educate” academic methods.

I think free public education should be strengthened, at the primary level, starting with children. I think that’s where efforts to encourage the development of new imaginaries should focus, emphasizing the need to move away from the logic of national states and their borders, while promoting the visions, the images that speak of our common problems so as to find common solutions. I think there’s an imperative need for the region to continue with the instituent processes of the post-nineties in the quest for new institutional frameworks, and not “alternativities” that only serve those who profit from those false “outsides”. I think that “de-education” today consists -as I said before- of avoiding the reproduction of narratives and

LatinArt:  Can you explain the concept of “semiocapitalism” that stems from Franco “Bifo” Berardi’s work and how it is addressed in your work?

Eduardo Molinari:  I explained it a little in my previous answer. During my research for Los niños de la soja (The Children of Soy), which is a tour of the interior of the soy rhizome, of the process known as the “soyization” of Argentina, whereby more than 50% of the land cultivated in our country has been given over to transgenic soy (i.e., over 18 million hectares), I discovered that biotechnology and culture had an operation in common: the operation of recombining.

On the one hand recombining genes of mineral, plant and animal origin to create transgenic plants such as RR soy, the only strain that can survive the effects of Roundup, Monsanto’s commercial name for glyphosate; also the recombining of forms of land tenure to give rise to the central players in this process: planting pools.

On the other hand there is also the recombining of fragments of our lives (this is where I begin following Bifo’s line of thought) as a central characteristic of flexible, cognitive work methods. In culture (following Bifo’s reasoning), signs are recombined regardless of their meaning. The main task of semiocapitalism is a perverse use of language, transforming all transformation processes into information. The production of value (of capital gain) stems from the recombining itself. This leads me to ask -and this is at the core of a new, emancipating education- what kind of culture needs an economic model based on transgenic single-crop farming? What artist’s paradigm, what type of images does this kind of economic organization, this new policy of global food production need? One answer, not a very positive one, is that today’s neoliberalism needs a transgenic culture. But naturally there are always seeds of rebellion.

LatinArt:  How are networks being created through the Walking Archive?

Eduardo Molinari:  Networks are being created since 1999 through actual experiences with fellow travelers. Our bonds basically stem from not taking politics and social issues as a “topic”, but as a need for the Walking Archive (my specific doing) to develop within transformative projects, as another presence, along with others. In that sense, I’ve always tried to let art methodology research be a way of sharing with others concerns, questions and the quest for answers, outside the “bunker of contemporary art”. Sometimes more is achieved, sometimes less. I’m not very fond of the word “networks”; I prefer quipus (a Quechua word meaning “knotted cords”, an Inca system of recording information).

LatinArt:  What is the immediate and long-term future of the Walking Archive, of your work?

Eduardo Molinari:  At the moment I’m going through the experience of building a self-managed space, La Dársena (The Dock), a platform for art-related thought and interaction, with my partner and fellow artist, Azul Blaseotto. It’s a former kiosk in the Almagro district of Buenos Aires, in which we’re conducting -on a human scale, without subsidies- a project involving exchanges and experiments, an attempt to break the predominance of the discourse whose “concern for art education” has served to tame/domesticate artists all the more by making them believe they should be their own agents and managers and achieve success quickly by going to the right “clinics” or “workshops.”Our aim is to rethink the policies behind the reception and circulation of our images, collectively shape thoughts and contribute narratives and imaginaries that will help us bring about a happier, freer and fairer world. In this context, I’ve decided to make my archive public by letting people consult it twice a week. I’m also thinking about the new work I’ll be doing after In the Footsteps of the Corn Men and The Children of Soy.


[1] Originally published on LatinArt.com.

css.php